Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

King Soopers plan at 9th and Colorado: Will it calm critics of Walmart at today's meeting?

Last week, the mayor's office confirmed that Fuqua Development and its capital partner, the Lionstone Group, were negotiating with King Soopers regarding the anchor retail spot in a revised development plan for the former CU Health Sciences Center property at East Ninth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. What went unsaid is that they hope King Soopers won't be as much of a boat anchor as Walmart proved to be, sinking the first plan.

"The city and our partners have worked tirelessly for nearly a decade to create a development at 9th and Colorado that the neighbors -- and the entire city -- can be proud of," Mayor Michael Hancock said in the November 28 release. "Although negotiations are ongoing, I am excited at the prospect of one of Denver's best-known and respected retailers stepping forward to work with us in fulfilling our vision for this area."

To sweeten the pot, the release also mentioned a number of "additional tenants negotiating to locate at the site," emphasizing local roots (if they had them). That list included "Colorado-based Natural Grocers Vitamin Cottage," Home Goods, Larkburger, McAllister's Deli and Tavern Hospitality Group.

Tavern Hospitality Group's inclusion came as a surprise to Frank Schultz, founder of THG, who says he looked at the project some time ago but didn't think it looked right for his Colorado-centric chain of eight restaurants. But now that the site is being redesigned, a spokesman for the developer says they'll be talking to Schultz again.

In fact, there will be plenty of talking this round, to make sure the project doesn't encounter the same roadblocks that stalled it earlier this fall. While most of the early complaints concerned Walmart, many opponents were concerned about subsidizing the deal at all. Financing for the redevelopment of the site would include approximately $21 million in Tax Increment Financing -- which, as the mayor's release notes, "allows the Denver Urban Renewal Authority to receive the new sales and property taxes generated by the redevelopment project to be used for public improvements on the development site, such as building demolition, environmental remediation, roadways and other site improvements."

And the first time to talk about this incarnation will be today, when the Colorado Boulevard Healthcare District will hold its first public meeting since Denver City Councilwomen Mary Beth Susman and Jeanne Robb said they opposed TIF financing for the deal, and Walmart subsequently pulled out.

Susman and Robb will be on hand for today's CBHDM meeting, which will run from 4 to 6 p.m. in the auditorium of Hill Middle School, 451 Clermont Parkway.

While neighbors have embraced plans for a Trader Joe's at Eighth and Colorado, they fought against a Walmart a block away -- a split that emphasized just how divided this swing state can be. From our archives: "Blue State v. Red State: Which Colorado do you live in?"

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun